April 23, 2015

A DUE PROCESS WIN: Ashe Schow: North Dakota Students Now Have Right To An Attorney.

What seems like an obvious right is sadly not so obvious for today’s college students. But a new law in North Dakota is reaffirming one of the basic elements of due process — the right to legal representation — for college students.

The bill, SB 2150, unanimously passed the state’s House of Representatives on April 8 and passed the Senate on April 17 with just one senator voting against. Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the bill into law on Wednesday.

By signing this bill, Dalrymple, a Republican, has made North Dakota the third state in the nation to allow students facing non-academic disciplinary charges the ability to hire an attorney. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education credits part of the decision to enact the law on the case of Caleb Warner, who was expelled from the University of North Dakota for sexual assault despite evidence of innocence. His accuser was later charged with filing a false police report.

Because of the injustice done to her son, Warner’s mother, Sherry Warner-Seefeld, helped found the Families Advocating for Campus Equality, a group dedicated to due process for college students.

“It is so gratifying to know that parents of students enrolled in North Dakota’s public colleges will no longer have to worry that their children might be railroaded the way my son was at UND,” Warner-Seefeld told FIRE. “Basic fairness necessitates that colleges determining young people’s futures provide the kind of procedural protections now required by SB 2150.”

North Carolina and Arkansas are the only two other states with laws that allow some kind of legal representation during campus hearings.

If I had a hearing in one of the other states, I’d be tempted to bring a kangaroo.